Senate-CIA Dispute Erupts Into a Public Brawl

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Feinstein Says CIA Spied on Congress; Brennan Rebuts.

The chairman of the Senate intelligence committee levied an extraordinary barrage of criticism against the Central Intelligence Agency, saying it may have violated the Constitution and U.S. laws by spying on a congressional review early this year.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) said in a speech from the Senate floor that the CIA had conducted improper searches of committee computers being used by staff members. The CIA director quickly rebuffed that accusation, saying a Justice Department review would show no wrongdoing.

Nonetheless, the harsh critique was all the more stinging because it came from a Democratic leader and pro-intelligence lawmaker who is usually an ally of the CIA.

Ms. Feinstein’s lengthy speech detailed complaints related to a dispute with intelligence officials over her committee’s report on the CIA’s post-Sept. 11 interrogation practices. The report, which lawmakers have said amounts to more than 6,000 pages, is classified, and lawmakers and the White House have urged it be made public. The dispute with the CIA has slowed the declassification.

Ms. Feinstein charged Tuesday that the CIA, without any prior notification, had searched Senate committee computers in a secure location in northern Virginia that aides were using to review CIA documents on the agency’s program to interrogate terror suspects. The CIA also searched a separate network drive containing the staffers’ work and internal messages, she said.

“I have grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation-of-powers principles embodied in the U.S. Constitution,” undermining the ability of Congress to effectively oversee the administration, Ms. Feinstein said. “How this will be resolved will show whether the intelligence committee can be effective in monitoring and investigating our nation’s intelligence activities, or whether our work can be thwarted by those we oversee.”

CIA Director John Brennan issued a response after delivering a previously planned speech in Washington on Tuesday. Mr. Brennan rejected accusations that the CIA hacked into the Senate computers in Virginia, but he didn’t directly address the question of improper searches.

“When the facts come out on this, I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous sort of spying and monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong,” he said before an audience at the Council of Foreign Relations, where he was being interviewed by NBC’s Andrea Mitchell.

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